Who would’ve guessed that being sensitive enough to feel a pea under 20 mattresses means you lose the contest? In Violet Eyes by Debbie Viguie, that’s exactly what happens to one unfortunate princess vying for Prince Richard’s attention. The final project for my myth and folklore in children’s literature class involved reading and critiquing about 15 different versions of “The Princess and the Pea.” I didn’t have enough time to read the novel for the project, but I had become so enamored with the tale that I wanted to read this version. I’m SO glad I did!
The protagonist in the story is Violet—named after her violet eyes. She is a level headed and hard-working 17-year-old farmer’s daughter in the kingdom of Cambria. One night, an accident brings Prince Richard to Violet’s family farm, where he must be nursed back to health. Well, within this time period, both Prince Richard and Violet fall in love with each other. Unfortunately, Prince Richard was just on a quest (given by his parents) to find a princess to be his wife (the thought alone makes him sick). Since Violet is not a princess, does this mean they are not meant to be?
Once healthy again, Prince Richard travels back to the castle to watch the proceedings for the contest that will determine the most sensitive princess and his wife. Violet soon ends up at the castle competing for the prince’s hand in marriage—ok, I’m inserting a super short back story here: Cambria’s original royal family had been murdered, but the baby princess’s body had never been found…Violet is supposedly that baby.
I had a paragraph talking about the connections that were made between this book and the original tale (feel free to ask me about them still), but then I realized that a more important aspect of the book would be to talk about Violet's character. She is very down to earth and likable--her insecurities and strengths are revealed throughout the novel--and make her a relatable character for teen girls. Some of her insecurities stem from her not only feeling like an outsider, but an impostor (princess) at the castle--hmmm...makes me think high school. At the same time, the reader knows she possesses such positive qualities--and at one point another princess gets up and speaks out admiringly on behalf of Violet.
The contests appear to be ridiculous on the surface, but the reader (at least I did) soon becomes suspicious that there is more to these “sensitivity tests” than meets the eye—and with Violet’s friend, Princess Genevieve forming similar suspicions, the reader is supported in her/his inferring. The final contest is between Violet and Celeste (the princess from the royal family that killed Violet’s) and it involves 20 mattresses and you guessed it, one pea.
This retelling is a fun adventure and sweet romance between two very likable characters.
Viguie, D. (2010). Violet eyes. New York, NY: Simon Pulse.